Leuchanka, TEO Target Survival

09 January 2008

TEO Vilnius have returned from the holiday break looking to save their EuroLeague Women campaign with a new coach.

Rutenis Paulauskas has taken over the reins at the Lithuanian side, replacing Lithuanian national team coach Algirdas Paulauskas, with TEO attempting to climb back to the upper regions of Group D.

Right now, the Vilnius team is tied for fourth at 2-5 along with USO Mondeville Basket and Germano Zama Faenza.

Vilnius have dropped five of their last six games, although the Lithuanians have been in all of the games but one.

One of our main problems is defense. Otherwise we can match up with anyone in the group.
Yelena Leuchanka

They lost games to USO, Ros Casares, Germano Faenza and MiZo Pecs by an average of 5.5 points.

Teo Vilnius travel to Faenza on Wednesday in a critical showdown in the group, and the club's Belarus national team star Yelena Leuchanka will undoubtedly play a critical role in the contest.

Leuchanka, who has averaged 14 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals for Teo, also helped lead Belarus to bronze medal at the 2007 EuroBasket Women in Italy.

She spoke to David Hein on behalf of FIBA Europe.

FIBA Europe: Yelena, your team has slumped to a 2-5 record in the EuroLeague Women. What has gone wrong in Lithuania?

Leuchanka: "One of our main problems is defense. Otherwise we can match up with anyone in the group. We have made the changes now with a new system and a new defense over the break. Now we have to come out and try to improve."

FIBA Europe: Despite a 2-5 record, most of TEO's games have been close. Does the team take any sort of a moral victory from a close loss?

Leuchanka: "We've had a lot of close games, but that doesn't help us that much. It hurt, for example, to lose against (Ros Casares) Valencia being down one point with 21 seconds left. We just really needed the break."

FIBA Europe: You mentioned the changes earlier. Over the break, club management brought in Rutenis Paulauskas to replace Algirdas Paulauskas. What are your thoughts about the move?

Leuchanka: "I'm hoping it will help us. I played here last year for the same coach (Algirdas Paulauskas). This year he didn't have the same team and he needed to make changes and I don't know if that was done so well."

FIBA Europe: Could you expand on that?

Yelena Leuchanka (TEO Vilnius)
Yelena Leuchanka is a driving force for TEO Vilnius and Belarus

Leuchanka: "The coach was a bit unlucky to have some of the Lithuanian players banged up from the EuroBasket Women. We have to compete with other teams that are really deep with eight or nine players. And being young and having the Lithuanians injured didn't help. In the EuroLeague it's really tough to win with only six or seven players."

FIBA Europe: What would it be like for the club to move into the Eighth-final Play-offs?

Leuchanka: "After going through all the ups and downs and injuries and changes, it would be a big boost and bring us closer as a team and make us a better team."

FIBA Europe: "This summer Belarus will be attempting to qualify for the Olympics in Beijing. What are your thoughts heading into the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Spain in June?

Leuchanka: "It's big for the country, the national team, the girls and the national team coach to have the opportunity to make the Olympics. It would be huge for me personally. We all talk to each other about it and we can't wait for the groups to be drawn (on Monday, January 14)."

FIBA Europe: This spring you also have a training camp with the Washington Mystics. How will you balance that with the training camp and warm-ups with your national team commitments?

Leuchanka: "I need to find my priorities and see how things fit in with the Olympics. I definitely want to go for the national team. I will be there. But everything around it just depends on how this season ends. Maybe I will have a shortened training camp. But I'm sure they (the Mystics) understand that trying to qualify for the Olympics is a big deal."

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